Saturday, January 15, 2011


I wrote this about a month ago. Between the holidays, a sinus infection, and posting other stuff, I haven't gotten around to posting it until now. Here it is . . .

Sometimes I talk to myself. I thought I'd interview myself to review this year's NaNoWriMo experience.

Q. Why did you write in the 3rd person instead of the 1st person this year?
A. Because I wanted to try it out and challenge myself.

Q. So, how did that work?
A. It didn't. What was I thinking? Oh well, at least I learned something from it. Like one of my professors in grad school says, "Having a 'bad' internship isn't a waste -- you learn what you don't like." I'm sticking to writing in the first person. Apparently, I write significantly better that way.

Q. Did you write the recommended 1,667 words every day?
A. Um, no. I wrote around 2,000 words a day for the first few days with grand plans of being done by Thanksgiving, then I spent days not writing at all, then I spent days trying to play 'catch up,' then I spent days not writing at all, then I considered ditching the whole thing, and then I wrote around 5-10 thousand words a day to pull off winning it. We barely pulled it off, but we did it. (I'm speaking for me and Mark there. Our kids? Significantly more on the ball than their parents).

Q. What made you not give up?
A. My husband's astute observation that we spent way too many days writing and worrying about word counts to give up. He's awesome.

Q. It seems like most authors have dogs. Does having a dog make you a better writer?
A. One would think. Scout doesn't like me sitting at my computer. She either scratches at my hand to get me to stop or she gives up and pathetically looks at me (eyes up, ears down) so that I cuddle her while I write. So, I don't know if it makes me a better writer or not. But I do love, love, love having her.

Q. So, you had a contest where readers got to guess whose first lines belonged to which authors. Your college roommate Katie won and got to choose the names of some minor characters. She chose "Clarence" and "Penelope." Where did they get used in the books?
A. My book transitioned from a character-driven story (less plot) to a Gothic novel (I got bored with my own story, so I tried to spice it up), and back to a simpler story. During its Gothic phase, I came up with a creepy story that became a legendary curse associated with the psychiatric hospital (Englewood Manor) where my four main characters all reunited (they kind of knew each other in high school). The young, aristocratic girl who used to live in Englewood Manor (when it was her mansion home and before it became a psychiatric hospital) but who later went psycho in a deathly jealous rage? Her name was Penelope. Thing 1 used Clarence as the name of one of her unicorns -- she says it worked perfectly because the names of all of her unicorns start with the letter "C." Thing 2's character names all came from the names of friends' wizards on Wizard101 and none of them are named Clarence or Penelope, so he says he didn't use the names for that reason. Mark's youth fiction novel is about an unlikely hero named Douglas. Mark says, "Clarence was the Giver of Quests early in my story. Penelope is a girl the main character meets along the way. Can't give away details, though." So, there you have it. Oh, and Thing 1 used the name "Cricket" as suggested by Jessica! :)

Q. What was your story about again?
A. It's about 4 people who kind of knew each other in high school (though none of them had been close then) who all end up meeting one another as adults in a psychiatric inpatient hospital. After some initial embarrassment, they all become friends and even go on to meet weekly at a local coffeehouse. Their weekly get togethers are something to which they all look forward and enjoy. The novel flashes back to their time in the psych hospital, but mostly covers the next year as they meet weekly. Their lives begin to intertwine and become more complicated. It is right around the time of their 20th high school reunion when everything comes to a head. That's all I'll say for now. Oh, one more thing. They all wonder about the curse of Englewood Manor and whether or not that curse is real. It seems to be, though, as all of them continue to sort of break down throughout the book.

Q. Can you tell a little more about the characters?
A. Okay. 4 main characters. 2 men. 2 women.

- One of the characters is a very attractive gay man ("Schwartz") who never felt able to fully be himself for fear of disappointing his parents. His parents were much older when they had him and he was the baby they didn't ever think they'd be able to have. They doted on him and adored him and he loved them, too. Once they died, he thought he would be "free," so to speak, to live a live true to himself and his own sexuality. As he gets older, though, he is torn between allowing himself to live an authentic life and continuing to hide that fact about himself for fear of somehow disrespecting his parents even in death. He is badly tormented by all of it. He is very well-liked by the other characters. He and Marnie especially develop a sweet closeness.

- One of the women ("Marnie") was always shy and quiet and sweet in high school and spent most of her life selflessly caring for ailing family members (grandmother, father, mother, etc.). When she is finally able to look out for herself and live her own life, she finds out she has a life-threatening illness. Her biggest regret is never having been in love and never having been with a man.

- The other man ("Brad") is a former high school football player stud who lived quite a cliché life, dating and marrying his high school sweetheart (a cheerleader). He owns his own construction business, handed down to him by generations before him. He and his wife have two children but live entirely separate lives. He even sleeps in the living room as they don't even share their bedroom anymore. She is rather, um, unpleasant and self-centered. Their marriage has deteriorated and is headed for divorce, but she is VERY into appearances and wants him to pretend to be happily married until after the high school reunion.

- The other female character ("Jenna") is a journalist and is the only one who didn't enter Englewood Manor for emotional issues -- she was covering a story for the newspaper. She was the salutatorian in her high school and had moved up in her career at a very rapid pace. She had been working for a major newspaper in a big city when the economy took a toll and she found herself unemployed and back in her hometown doing freelance work for the local paper. She had many liaisons, but never let a man, or any semblance of a real relationship with a man, get in the way of her career. Since she is unemployed, she has time to work on writing a novel, a lifelong wish of hers. She finds that the stories of her new friends and companions give her great fodder for her story. She feels sort of guilty for using them, but torn because she sincerely likes them, but she needed a story idea.

Q. Did your characters do unexpected things that surprised you?
A. Yes. There were several surprises. For example, one of the main characters started hitting on one of the other main characters and I did not see any of that coming. And a minor character VERY publicly confronts one of the major characters in a very embarrassing way exposing a hidden double life. There were other things, too, but I don't want to give it away.

Q. Anything else surprise you?
A. Yes. Apparently, I enjoy and am rather good at writing steamy scenes. Who knew?

Q. Were you able to pull off that ambiguous ending you wanted?
A. Yes. A tragic one, too. Get this. You know what? Never mind. I'll leave it at "yes."

Q. What were you going for with the ambiguous ending?
A. I was trying to recreate in a book the thing I love in many indie and foreign films that I enjoy so much -- a character-driven story that is light on plot and ambiguous in its ending. I love watching a movie that doesn't tie up neatly and makes me wonder and think about meaning and what might've happened. I was trying to do that in this book. I think I did it. Maybe not well, but I did it.

Q. Did you meet neat people while doing NaNoWriMo?
A. YES! I really enjoyed getting to know local WriMos. One of them is a Jedi (I kid you not -- she does actual stage combat with light sabers) and another had a SUPER COOL novel idea and amazed us all with her prep for NaNo. She even cast her characters with real actors and actresses and had an awesome Power Point of all of them. Super neat ideas. I wouldn't be surprised to see all of us steal that idea for next year. And several of us are already good friends.

Q. Did you get together often?
A. Yes! At least 1-2 times weekly. We had weekly write-ins as well as a kick-off party, a half-way there party, and a celebratory party.

Q. Did you like being ML (Municipal Liaison) for your area?
A. I did. I had no clue what I was doing, but I've got ideas for next time and I'm excited to do it again.

Q. Which novel do you like best so far? Your first one or second one?
A. First one. Hands down.

Q. Do you think you'll try to publish either book?
A. Yes. I want to work on editing and submitting my first book. I didn't love this one as much, though it was interesting in its own way. I might revisit the 2nd one, too, though. We'll see.

Q. Do you have more book ideas?
A. Yes! I thought of several new ideas after NaNoWriMo. And I'm happy about that, because I had NO idea what I was doing this year and that was disappointing.

Q. Will you do anything differently next year?
A. Yes. The first year was all new and I wrote a 1st person story that was funny. The second year, I tried writing a heavier story in the 3rd person. Next year, I'm going to try writing from an outline. I have a sneaking suspicion I'll like that (though I could be wrong). So besides sticking to funny (rather than heavy) and 1st person (rather than 3rd), I'm going to try an outline. I kind of like that NaNo gives me the opportunity to try different things each time, since it's kind of an "anything goes" kind of project.

Q. Did you almost switch from 3rd person to 1st person in your novel this year?
A. Yes! One of my WriMos suggested I just switch and write about each character from their own perspectives. I thought I would, but felt funny switching in the middle like that. So, I had one of them give a journal as a gift to one of the others. When she started writing in it, the words just flowed for me! That's when I really knew that writing in the 1st person is just better for me all around. I already suspected as much, but that clinched it.

Q. Do the kids enjoy NaNoWriMo?
A. Very much so. They have a great Young Writer's Program and our kids eat it up. They say it's their very favorite thing that we do as part of our schooling.

Q. So you'll do NaNoWriMo again?
A. Absolutely.


katie said...

Wow, I'm honored. I didn't know that several of you were going to use the names. How fun...I am glad you were able to finish it on time!

Cristin said...

So glad you did it again, and glad I did, too! Love the idea of a self-interview!

Alena said...

I like how you executed this post. An interview is such a cool way to edit your work, realize and understand how you think, and "Ger to know yourself" Very cool.

Jimmy said...

This format is great! I do this to myself all the time, only I am both the lawyer and the witness on the stand.

the emily said...

How cool! I loved hearing more about the process and the story. I'm so intrigued.

Plus, why is the cheerleader always self-centered? :)

J Fo said...

Love getting into your head like that! Thanks! I would love to read your books! So glad that Thing 1 found a use for Cricket. ;)

Boquinha said...

Oh, I'm so glad, Katie! That was a fun contest and great names, too!

Cristin, I love that we share that tradition together!

Thanks, Alena. It was a fun way to get in my own head and to present it.

Jimmy, I do that, too. It's actually a therapy trick.

LOL, Emily! I know I'm totally playing up a stereotype there, but there's nothing much more cliche from high school that I could think of than the football player and the cheerleader. I didn't know she was going to be stuck up until the story progressed. :P

Thanks, Jessica! Isn't that funny?